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Who Should Really Benefit From BEC Excellence Awards

For the first time since their inception in 2010, this year’s Botswana Examinations Excellence (BEC) awards were sensibly held at less costly venue. This time the venue was a government institution- Mogoditshane Senior Secondary School.

Typical of Tswana norm of cleaning up to host a visitor especially of the Head of State magnitude, weeks preceding the celebration were characterised by intense de-bushing the sides of the street leading to the school and clearing of the grass in the surrounding area. Cleaning areas in and outside the school compound was done.

Of particular note was the frenetic filling up of years old potholes and installation of street lights despite the ceremony being held during the day. A month later, only lamp poles have so far been erected with no lamps. Doors to the multi-purpose hall that had been broken for some time and the blown out light bulbs in the building were replaced. The place was spick and span. I have always wondered whether His Excellency’s eye never sees beneath this veneer of cleanliness.

The glitz and glamour fitting the Grammy awards stature air gripped those who besides the deserving relatives of the award winners were fortunate to land a somewhat elusive invitation card to the occasion. The latest hairdo and dress reminiscent of the Duke Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex’s wedding were the order of the day.

There was an air of anticipation whose exact source had me wondering.  For one was it really borne out of the genuine desire to see at close proximity the BEC top achievers? Second was it out of catching a glimpse of the country’s president whose accent of the English Language set tongues wagging during a state visit to the United Kingdom shortly post his inauguration? Or, closer home, the barely concealed excitement at having been invited and subsequently offered an opportunity to display the latest fashion wear and palpable bragging about well connectedness?  Or was it all about getting the chance to taste the sumptuous dishes offered on the day?

These questions beg the question as to who really ought to be part of the celebration of these top achievers performance. Topping that list would be families and relatives undisputedly. Or even a bigger question, what is the objective of these celebrations?

Having been a teacher for a considerable number of years, I believe I know the answer to the first question especially if the achievers themselves were to be asked. Of course our priorities-mine and probably those of the achievers- might be different to those of BEC. I doubt this although since according to them their mandate, ‘the awards are also designed to serve as encouragement to those still in the school system’.

Before I hazard mine, a word first about these top achievers. These are a bunch of learners whose work ethics are marvelously largely self-driven. I am not taking anything away from the support rendered by parents and or guardians.  These learners’ sense of self-efficacy and self-determination is high.

They are intrinsically motivated and studies have shown that they are wanton to take challenging tasks.

They set themselves lofty goals and work hard to achieve them regardless of the inevitable challenges en route. Nonetheless their contribution to the envisaged improved nation’s academic outcome is a drop in the ocean.

All these enviable qualities would not come to fruition without the invaluable role of the teacher. In an era whereby teacher effectiveness and competency are measured by the performance of their learners’ final grades, and recriminations amongst the government, teacher unions and parents as to what causes the dismal examination results are abound, it is only

proper that the efforts of those involved on the journey to these impressive results be appreciated.

BEC’s view regarding the ceremony of the awards ‘is to celebrate in a public way outstanding performance in general education’. There is nothing wrong with that as it might promote stakeholder involvement. 

The role of the teacher in ensuring that these already self-driven awardees realise their dream is immense.

Apart from the obvious curriculum delivery which is delivered against the not so conducive circumstances such as the very high teacher learner ratio, inadequate resources such as shortage of textbooks, the weak and unstable Internet, that is, if available, they also strive to assess students’ work and provide timeous feedback. They travail the bumpy learning path with the learner through the critical formative feedback where it helps the learner strategise their learning methods and the results of which culminates in the impressive summative final examinations outcome.

Consequently, it is only proper that teachers should be part of the celebrations for their outstanding learners. Instead of providing lavish ceremonies whereby the hosting school staff becomes forlorn spectators of the ceremony, BEC could do it differently by giving schools producing such awardees some token of appreciation for the staff to organise their own celebrations.

The awardees could still get the same prizes such as laptops from BEC.  As a bonus, the learner scooping the presidential award could be invited to the State house for a low key handshake affair with the President. Schools, together with their Parents Teachers Association (PTA) could join heads to work on the logistics. For example at Mogoditshane Senior School the venue could be the stadium as it can accommodate a bigger crowd. The local business community could be roped in to ensure the success of the event. Such a move would foster a much needed relationship between the schools and the business community and the dividends could translate into assisting schools with the needed resources enhancing the adopt a school initiative.

Furthermore, the celebrations hosted locally by the schools, awardees will have a vital opportunity to share with learners still to take their examinations how they managed to successfully overcome learning hurdles. The significance of these testimonies as motivation cannot be overemphasised. The learners would get first-hand knowledge from their role models who in any case have direct experiences the learners are faced with. 

The idea is not to deny them the recognition they truly deserve, but rather to use the occasion as a motivating factor to those still in school. Celebrations at schools need not be turned into a feast providing a free meal as is regrettably the case with prize giving ceremonies.

The awardees could for instance have a block, classroom or even erection of artifact in their honour. The emphasis should be on the remaining learners being motivated. Therefore, holding the ceremony away from the eyes of the many deserving learners at their respective schools is surely not the smart way to encourage others. 

Celebrating success is noble   particularly if it is done with financial prudence during the preparations for the event in particular, motivating to those who were on the journey with the awardee, and importantly beneficial to the learners in school. It is my reverent belief that a combination of all these will ultimately predict improved academic achievement, which presently is still a huge challenge.

* Emmanuel Rasesia is a teacher at Mogoditshane Senior School

(Contact: 71411110)


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